This should be subtitled:
2. Better English
Think about it. An examiner has the power to change your life. What does he have to evaluate you, to make sure you are worthy?
He has not met you, or if he has, he supposedly does not know it. What is the only thing he has to judge your worthiness to join our ranks?
It’s one thing if you’re answer is correct. But if you do not communicate yours correctly, the answer will come across wrong, the examiner will be so pissed of that he will not let you become a lawyer, even if your answer is correct.
Hence, the need to better your English. I will not lecture you on high school or college English since we suppose you know that already. I will just blog about “bar English.”
a) SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT!
b) There must be consistency in tenses within the paragraph.
c) Omit needless words.
d) Consistency/Unity in thought.
e) Prefer Active than Passive voice
You may have heard of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Read it. It’s only a short book.
The basic bar answer has three parts: 1) The categorical answer, 2) The reasoning and 3) The conclusion (or reiteration). Theoretically, therefore, a bar answer can be as little as a three-sentence paragraph. Of course, if the question is objective, just recite the law, concept or principle being asked. This formula is irrelevant for rote-memory recitations.
Given the amount of test notebooks an examiner has to check, you’ll also be doing him a favor if your answer is as short as possible. Face it. It’s either you know the answer or you don’t. There is no sense in hiding it. Just make an educated guess.
Who knows? You may have a point if eloquently presented. Maybe one point. But there are other questions there that you may know the answer to. Maybe that answer you don’t know is worth only five points. There are 95 other points up for grabs. Or than one point the examiner gave you for good communication skills may be the difference between passing and failing.
a) The categorical answer
This is usually the “Yes” or the “No” part of your bar answer. Just make sure that you answer what is asked. A non-responsive answer is a dead-giveaway that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. And that will certainly not help to convince the examiner you’re worthy to practice law.
b) The Reasoning
For this part, explain how you arrived at your categorical answer. Here, cite the law or other legal authority to back up your answer.
Be as short as possible here.
c) The Reiteration or Conclusion
This portion wraps your answer up. This may be optional but it helps both you and the examiner cement the thought in both your minds. For you, it’s an opportunity to review whether you arrived at your categorical answer correctly. For the examiner, it’s an opportunity to review that path you took to arrive at your answer.
I’ve heard stories of bar examinees putting prayers or personal appeals addressed to the examiner in their exam notebooks. But you know that’s an appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam). This is not a valid argument in your cause to become a lawyer.
Your examiner knows this and will automatically convince him/her otherwise. So don’t bother attempting this. That’s really not a good idea. I think leaving it blank is better than pulling a stunt like this.
Finally, as in anything, you improve as you practice. There are only a few natural born writers, like La Vida Lawyer who could have gone for a career as such. For most of us, we have to work at it. Believe me, by finishing your degree, you’ve read enough materials to distinguish good writing from the bad. That way, you’ll know how your writing matches up.
It’s a good thing there’s blogging now. You have the opportunity to practice writing. We did not have this when we took the bar. We could have used this kind of practice.
Until next time…